The Confessions of Saint Augustine

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Confessions (Latin: Confessiones) is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by Saint Augustine of Hippo, written in Latin between AD 397 and 400. The work outlines Saint Augustine's sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published under the title The Confessions of Saint Augustine in order to distinguish the book from other books with similar titles. Its original title was Confessions in Thirteen Books, and it was composed to be read out loud with each book being a complete unit. Confessions is generally considered one of Augustine's most important texts. It is widely seen as the first Western autobiography ever written, and was an influential model for Christian writers throughout the Middle Ages. Professor Henry Chadwick wrote that Confessions will "always rank among the great masterpieces of western literature". The work is not a complete autobiography, as it was written during Saint Augustine's early 40s and he lived long afterwards, producing another important work. Nonetheless, it does provide an unbroken record of his development of thought and is the most complete record of any single person from the 4th and 5th centuries. It is a significant theological work, featuring spiritual meditations and insights. In the work Augustine writes about how much he regrets having led a sinful and immoral life. He discusses his regrets for following the Manichaean religion and believing in astrology. He writes about Nebridius's role in helping to persuade him that astrology was not only incorrect but evil, and Saint Ambrose's role in his conversion to Christianity. The first nine books are autobiographical and the last four are commentary and significantly more philosophical. He shows intense sorrow for his sexual sins, and writes on the importance of sexual morality. The books were written as prayers to God, thus the title, based on the Psalms of David; and it begins with "For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee." The work is thought to be divisible into books which symbolize various aspects of the Trinity and trinitarian belief. Confessions was not only meant to encourage conversion, but it offered guidelines for how to convert. Saint Augustine extrapolates from his own experiences to fit others' journeys. Augustine recognizes that God has always protected and guided him. This is reflected in the structure of the work. Augustine begins each book within Confessions with a prayer to God. For example, both books VIII and IX begin with "you have broken the chains that bound me; I will sacrifice in your honor." Because Augustine begins each book with a prayer, Albert C. Outler, a Professor of Theology at Southern Methodist University, argues that Confessions is a "pilgrimage of grace [...] retrac[ing] [of] the crucial turnings of the way by which [Augustine] had come. And since he was sure that it was God’s grace that had been his prime mover in that way, it was a spontaneous expression of his heart that cast his self-recollection into the form of a sustained prayer to God." Not only does Confessions glorify God but it also suggests God’s help in Augustine’s path to redemption.

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Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354 – 28 August 430), also known as Saint Augustine, Saint Austin, Blessed Augustine, and the Doctor of Grace, was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius (modern-day Annaba, Algeria), located in Numidia, Roman province of Africa. He is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are The City of God and Confessions.

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